Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Concerns about MLDs dominate meeting

Staff Writer | July 7, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Concern over a lack of transparency prompted a number of complaints at Tuesday’s Bonner County Commissioners meeting.

Winn Ranch had eight minor land division applications on Tuesday's consent agenda. Unlike last week’s 20 minute meeting, community members questioned the applications.

County resident Doug Patterson said he had tried to find the application online but was unable to do so. However, the policy change that required MLD applications to be posted online was made after the original applications were filed. The applications were filed by Daum Construction, LLC. Patterson asked that the applications be delayed for a week since the community could not review them.

Sandpoint resident Reg Crawford reminded the board that county residents were concerned that minor land division applications were administratively approved.

Once approved, the applications go on the commissioner’s meeting agenda as a consent item, removing the public from the MLD process, she said in explaining the source of residents’ concerns.

“There was no avenue in place for a person to oppose the application until after the MLD had already been approved and on the agenda,” she said. “Therefore, it unreasonably burdened the public who would be subject to appeal fees before even being aware of the application.”

“So it’s not just that it was old code … not having these available is a legal issue that makes it impossible for the public to appeal before they are approved,” she said.

Crawford also complained that the meeting agenda came out on Friday when the planning department was closed and, since Monday was a federal holiday, even though it did technically meet the required 48-hour notification period.

“It's not good timing for transparency and public trust,” she said.

Crawford questioned the content of the applications. While she was not able to file a public records request in time before the meeting, she said residents are “technically having to count on hearsay that these splits are for 10 acres and that the 10-day appeal process has passed.”

These applications had been filed in 2021 with a request for rezoning that would have changed the area from “A/F 10” (agricultural/forestry 10 acre plots) to “R 5” (rural 5 acre plots). The rezoning request was ultimately denied, however, there remains concerns that the plat applications do not reflect this.

Crawford also called into question the practice of allowing applications to be “completely altered” instead of requiring new and accurate applications to be filed. Because their original filing date was before the then planning director’s decision to post MLD applications online, the Winn Ranch applications were permitted to remain offline.

MLDs do not require public notifications, nor hearings. Instead, it is up to the public to file an appeal – a process that is complicated if the applications are offline.

Doug Patterson said he did not feel that the “problem with the MLDs” had been adequately resolved, as, prior to the meeting, the Winn Ranch applications could not be confirmed to be 10-acre plats.

Bonner County Commission Chairman Dan McDonald said that, despite the modifications of the original application, it still falls under the previous county policies. Commissioner Jeff Connolly was frustrated with the public comments, at one point calling Mr. Patterson “disingenuous” for pressing the board on the loophole allowing MLD applications to remain offline.

“You know for a fact that we have made a lot of these changes by what you folks have brought forward,” Connolly said.

Janet Robb reminded the commissioners that “trust was broken” as she was concerned that they may have been reconsidering the 5-acre MLDs.

The "consent" agenda, which included catering permits for Eichardt’s Pub and Trinity at City Beach, was passed unanimously.